Welcome to The Hockey Writers’ 2023 Free-Agent Targets series for the Detroit Red Wings. During it, we will be looking at a handful of free agents from each NHL team who the Red Wings should consider pursuing this summer.
This installment of the series takes a look at the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers suffered a disappointing Round 2 exit in the 2022-23 playoffs at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.
- Detroit Red Wings Projected Cap Space: $30,665,278
- Edmonton Oilers Projected Cap Space: $5,970,000
With money to burn, the Red Wings could make a big splash in the free agency market. They have some big needs, and some great options can be pursued by the Oilers.
Nick Bjugstad was a trade deadline acquisition for the Oilers. The 6-foot-6 center played 19 regular season games for the Oilers, where he tallied four goals and two assists for six total points. His ice time declined considerably from around 17 minutes a game before the trade to under 14 once he was an Oiler. He would add another three points in 12 playoff games, earning some ice time in the top six as a reward for his excellent play.
Related: Red Wings 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: Vancouver Canucks
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Bjugstad is coming off of a $900,000 contract. I imagine he’d be looking for a similar amount given his point production this past season wasn’t above average for him. A one or two-year deal at $1.2 million feels right. He would give the Red Wings another center who also has experience playing on the wing as well. He can fit into the bottom six easily, and provide support to the younger players playing in a similar role.
Tyler Benson has yet to pan out in the NHL ranks. He’s been up and down with the Oilers, but his ice time has been declining with every season. It appears as though his stay with the organization may be coming to an end. With 38 career NHL games across three seasons, he’s only managed three points while skating for about eight minutes per game.
A league-minimum two-way deal would probably be enough to acquire Benson’s services. With a new organization, he could make a big impact and work his way up onto the Red Wings roster. He has good offensive awareness and average skating that helps him get to where he needs to go on the ice. In the Red Wings system, he could thrive.
Evan Bouchard had a standout performance during the Oilers’ run in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He collected 17 points in 12 playoff games while being the point man on the Oilers’ lethal power play. He has incredible pick skills and a bomb of a slapshot. He has ice in his veins, displaying poise with the puck while under tremendous pressure.
Bouchard is a restricted free agent, which means that the Red Wings would have to give up some draft capital if he were to sign a contract with them. The Oilers would then decide to match the contract or accept the draft picks (known as an offer sheet). For a 40+ point defenceman, a $5-$6 million contract is entirely reasonable. With the Oilers’ projected cap space just under $6 million, an offer like that would have them think twice about matching. In that instance, the Red Wings would give up a first-round, second-round, and third-round pick for the exchange of Bouchard’s services.
Related: Wild’s 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: Edmonton Oilers
This offseason could allow the Red Wings to make huge strides in their progression toward becoming a playoff team. These free agents would add to the depth of the team while potentially giving them another offensive weapon from the back end to push the team over the edge.